Hate crime can take many forms. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or offensive graffiti or letters.
In the United States, anti-Black bias was the most frequently reported hate crime motivation. (African-Americans constitute the second-largest minority group; Hispanics are the largest). Of the nearly 8,000 hate crimes reported to the FBI in 1995, almost 3,000 of them were motivated by bias against African Americans. Other frequently reported bias motivations were anti-white, anti-Jewish, anti-gay, and anti-Hispanic.
Discriminatory acts constituting harassment or infringement of a person's dignity on the basis of origin, citizenship, race, religion, or sex (Penal Code Article 313). Courts have cited bias-based motivation in delivering sentences, but there is no explicit penalty enhancement provision in the Criminal Code. The government does not track hate crime statistics, although they are relatively rare.
Armenia has a penalty-enhancement statute for crimes with ethnic, racial, or religious motives (Criminal Code Article 63).
Austria has a penalty-enhancement statute for crimes with racist or xenophobic motivation (Penal Code section 33(5)).
Azerbaijan has a penalty-enhancement statute for crimes motivated by racial, national, or religious hatred (Criminal Code Article 61). Murder and infliction of serious bodily injury motivated by racial, religious, national, or ethnic intolerance are distinct crimes (Article 111).
Belarus has a penalty-enhancement statute for crimes motivated by racial, national, and religious hatred and discord.
Belgium's Act of 25 February 2003 ("aimed at combating discrimination and modifying the Act of 15 February 1993 which establishes the Centre for Equal Opportunities and the Fight against Racism") establishes a penalty-enhancement for crimes involving discrimination on the basis of sex, supposed race, color, descent, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, civil status, birth, fortune, age, religious or philosophical beliefs, current or future state of health and handicap or physical features. The Act also "provides for a civil remedy to address discrimination." The Act, along with the Act of 20 January 2003 ("on strengthening legislation against racism"), requires the Centre to collect and publish statistical data on racism and discriminatory crimes.
The Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina (enacted 2003) "contains provisions prohibiting discrimination by public officials on grounds, inter alia, of race, skin colour, national or ethnic background, religion and language and prohibiting the restriction by public officials of the language rights of the citizens in their relations with the authorities (Article 145/1 and 145/2).
Bulgarian criminal law prohibits certain crimes motivated by racism and xenophobia, but a 1999 report by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance found that it does not appear that those provisions "have ever resulted in convictions before the courts in Bulgaria.
Croatian law allows for consideration of any extenuating or aggravating circumstances in sentencing, but no explicit provision is made for bias-based motivations.
"The Czech Criminal Code defines racist motivation as a specific aggravating circumstance that judges are required to take into account in sentencing, as well as defining specific racist acts as crimes. Section 196 punishes 'violence against a group of inhabitants and against individuals on the basis of race, nationality, political conviction or religion.'"
Although Denmark law does not include explicit hate crime provisions, "section 80(1) of the Criminal Code instructs courts to take into account the gravity of the offence and the offenders motive when meting out penalty, and therefore to attach importance to the racist motive of crimes in determining sentence. In recent years judges have used this provision to increase sentences on the basis of racist motives.
Since 1992, the Danish Civil Security Service (PET) has released statistics on crimes with apparent racist motivation.
In England and Wales criminal actions are considered hate crimes if they are perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice and hatred. Hate crimes may be physical attack, verbal attack, threats or insults and will be considered a hate crime if they are motivated by the victims race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality or national origins, religion, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.
Finnish Penal Code 515/2003 (enacted January 31, 2003) makes "committing a crime against a person, because of his national, racial, ethnical or equivalent group" an aggravating circumstance in sentencing. In addition, ethnic agitation (kiihotus kansanryhmää vastaan) is criminalized and carries a fine or a prison sentence of not more than two years. The prosecution need not prove that an actual danger to an ethnic group is caused but only that malicious message is emissioned. A more aggravated hate crime, warmongering (sotaan yllyttäminen), carries a prison sentence of one to ten years. However, in case of warmongering, the prosecution must prove an overt act that evidently increases the risk that Finland is involved in a war or becomes a target for a military operation. The act in question may consist of
In 2003, France enacted penalty-enhancement hate crime laws for crimes motivated by bias against the victim's actual or perceived ethnicity, nation, race, religion, or sexual orientation. The penalties for murder were raised from 30 years (for non-hate crimes) to life imprisonment (for hate crimes), and the penalties for violent attacks leading to permanent disability were raised from 10 years (for non-hate crimes) to 15 years (for hate crimes).
\"There is no general provision in Georgian law for racist motivation to be considered an aggravating circumstance in prosecutions of ordinary offenses. Certain crimes involving racist motivation are, however, defined as specific offenses in the Georgian Criminal Code of 1999, including murder motivated by racial, religious, national or ethnic intolerance (article 109); infliction of serious injuries motivated by racial, religious, national or ethnic intolerance (article 117); and torture motivated by racial, religious, national or ethnic intolerance (article 126). ECRI reported no knowledge of cases in which this law has been enforced. There is no systematic monitoring or data collection on discrimination in Georgia.\"
The German Criminal Code permits the motives and aims of the criminal, including racist motives, to be taken into account in sentencing.
§130 of the German penal code prohibits
1) Incitement of violence, incitment of arbitrary discrimination
as well as
2) Violating people's human dignity by swearing at, denegrading or slandering
groups of people defined by nationality, race, religion or ethnicity
Article Law 927/1979 \"Section 1,1 penalises incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence towards individuals or groups because of their racial, national or religious origin, through public written or oral expressions; Section 1,2 prohibits the establishment of, and membership in, organisations which organise propaganda and activities aimed at racial discrimination; Section 2 punishes public expression of offensive ideas; Section 3 penalises the act of refusing, in the exercise of one’s occupation, to sell a commodity or to supply a service on racial grounds. Public prosecutors may press charges even if the victim does not file a complaint. However, as of 2003, no convictions had been attained under the law.
Violent action, cruelty, and coercion by threat made on the basis of the victim's actual or perceived national, ethnic, or religious status are punishable under article 174/B of the Hungarian Criminal Code.
Iranian constitution's article 19 sates: All people of Iran, whatever the ethnic group or tribe to which they belong, enjoy equal rights; color, race, language, and the like, do not bestow any privilege.
Iranian constitution's article 20 sates: All citizens of the country, both men and women, equally enjoy the protection of the law and enjoy all human, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, in conformity with Islamic criteria.
Iranian constitution's article 14 prohibits the maltreatment of the non-islamic recognized minorities: In accordance with the sacred verse \"God does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with those who have not fought against you because of your religion and who have not expelled you from your homes\" [60:8], the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and all Muslims are duty-bound to treat non-Muslims in conformity with ethical norms and the principles of Islamic justice and equity, and to respect their human rights. This principle applies to all who refrain from engaging in conspiracy or activity against Islam and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
\"The Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 makes it an offense to incite hatred against any group of persons on account of their race, color, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, or membership of the Traveller community, an indigenous minority group.\"
Ireland does not systematically collect hate crime data.
Italian criminal law, at Section 3 of Law No. 205/1993, contains a penalty-enhancement provision for all crimes motived by racial, ethnic, national, or religious bias.
In Kazakhstan, there are constitutional provisions prohibiting propaganda promoting racial or ethnic superiority.
In Kyrgyzstan, \"the Constitution of the State party prohibits any kind of discrimination on grounds of origin, sex, race, nationality, language, faith, political or religious convictions or any other personal or social trait or circumstance, and that the prohibition against racial discrimination is also included in other legislation, such as the Civil, Penal and Labour Codes.
Article 299 of the Criminal Code defines incitement to national, racist, or religious hatred as a specific offense. This article has been used in political trials of suspected members of the banned organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir.
In Scottish Common law the courts can take any aggravating factor into account when sentencing someone found guilty of an offence. There is specific legislation dealing with the offences of incitement of racial hatred, racially-aggravated harassment and offences aggravated by religious prejudice. A Scottish Executive working party examined the issue of hate crime and ways of combating crime motivated by social prejudice, reporting in 2004. Its main recommendations were not implemented, but in their manifestos for the Scottish Parliament election, 2007 several political parties included commitments to legislate in this area, including the Scottish National Party who now form the Scottish Government. The Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Bill was introduced on 19 May 2008 by Patrick Harvie MSP , having been prepared with support from the Scottish Government.
Article 22(4) of the Spanish Penal Code includes a penalty-enhancement provision for crimes motivated by bias against the victim's ideology, beliefs, religion, ethnicity, race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, illness, or disability.
Article 29 of the Swedish Penal Code includes a penalty-enhancement provision for crimes motivated by bias against the victim's race, color, nationality, ethnicity, religion, or \"other circumstance\" of the victim.
Since 1966 the Canadian Criminal Code has included a penalty-enhancement provision for crimes \"motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on racial group, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor. The Code also \"punishes anyone who advocates or promotes genocide, with genocide defined to require that acts be committed with the intent to destroy in whole or in part any identifiable group. Identifiable group, in turn, is defined to mean any section of the public distinguished by skin color, racial group, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. Section 319, adopting the same definition of identifiable group, punishes the incitement or expression of hatred against such a group.\" Civil remedies are also available in Canada for discriminatory acts.
As defined in the 1999 National Crime Victim Survey, \"A hate crime is a criminal offense committed against a person or property motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender's bias against a racial group, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, or disability. The offense is considered a hate crime whether or not the offender's perception of the victim as a member or supporter of a protected group is correct.
In the United States federal prosecution is possible for hate crimes committed on the basis of a person's race, color, religion, or nation origin when engaging in a federally protected activity. Measures to add perceived gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability to the list have been proposed, but failed due to conservative opposition.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have statutes criminalizing various types of hate crimes. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have statutes creating a civil cause of action in addition to the criminal penalty for similar acts. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have statutes requiring the state to collect hate crime statistics
According to the FBI Hate Crime Statistics report for 2006, hate crimes increased nearly 8 percent nationwide, with a total of 7,722 incidents and 9,080 offenses reported by participating law enforcement agencies. Of the 5,449 crimes against persons, 46 percent were classified as intimidation and 31.9 percent as simple assaults. 81 percent of the 3,593 crimes against property were acts of vandalism or destruction. 58.6 percent of the 7,330 known offenders were white and 20.6 black. More than half, 52 percent, of the 9,652 victims identified were targeted because of racial group.
Justifications for harsher punishments for hate crimes focus on the notion that hate crimes cause greater individual and societal harm. In Wisconsin v. Mitchell, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously found that "bias-motivated crimes are more likely to provoke retaliatory crimes, inflict distinct emotional harms on their victims, and incite community unrest.... The State's desire to redress these perceived harms provides an adequate explanation for its penalty-enhancement provision over and above mere disagreement with offenders' beliefs or biases. As Blackstone said long ago, 'it is but reasonable that, among crimes of different natures, those should be most severely punished which are the most destructive of the public safety and happiness.'" It is said that, when the core of a person’s identity is attacked, the degradation and dehumanization is especially severe, and additional emotional and physiological problems are likely to result. Society then, in turn, can suffer from the disempowerment of a group of people. Furthermore, it is asserted that the chances for retaliatory crimes are greater when a hate crime has been committed. The riots in Los Angeles, California, that followed the beating of Rodney King, a Black motorist, by a group of White police officers are cited as support for this argument.
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously found that penalty-enhancement hate crime statutes do not conflict with free speech rights because they do not punish an individual for exercising freedom of expression; rather, they allow courts to consider motive when sentencing a criminal for conduct which is not protected by the First Amendment.
When it enacted the Hate Crimes Act of 2000, the New York State Legislature found that:
Hate crimes do more than threaten the safety and welfare of all citizens. They inflict on victims incalculable physical and emotional damage and tear at the very fabric of free society. Crimes motivated by invidious hatred toward particular groups not only harm individual victims but send a powerful message of intolerance and discrimination to all members of the group to which the victim belongs. Hate crimes can and do intimidate and disrupt entire communities and vitiate the civility that is essential to healthy democratic processes. In a democratic society, citizens cannot be required to approve of the beliefs and practices of others, but must never commit criminal acts on account of them. Current law does not adequately recognize the harm to public order and individual safety that hate crimes cause. Therefore, our laws must be strengthened to provide clear recognition of the gravity of hate crimes and the compelling importance of preventing their recurrence. Accordingly, the legislature finds and declares that hate crimes should be prosecuted and punished with appropriate severity.
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously found that hate crime statutes which criminalize bias-motivated speech or symbolic speech conflict with free speech rights because they isolated certain words based on their content or viewpoint .
Some have argued hate crime laws bring the law into disrepute and further divides society, as groups apply to have their critics silenced. Some have argued that if it is true that all violent crimes are the result of the perpetrator's contempt for the victim, then all crimes are hate crimes. Thus if there is no alternate rationale for prosecuting some people more harshly for the same crime based on who the victim is, then different defendants treated unequally under the law, which violates the United States Constitution.